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‘Kepa has all the attributes to be a top goalkeeper’ – Azpilicueta backs Chelsea stopper to continue improving – football news

Cesar Azpilicueta is happy that Chelsea brought in Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Club for £71 million ($92m) as he believes his new team-mate can become a ‘top goalkeeper.’

The 23 year old has been thrown in at the deep end by Maurizio Sarri, starting each of Chelsea’s first four Premier League games after being signed to replaced Thibaut Courtois.

His latest display against Bournemouth led to his second clean sheet in a Chelsea shirt, with Azpilicueta helping his compatriot to settle quickly at Stamford Bridge. The defender has been impressed by Arrizabalaga’s attributes and has tipped him to become one of the best in the world.

“He’s a young goalkeeper, a top man, and I know him very well from the national team,” Azpilicueta told Chelsea’s match day programme. “He is very talented and has a great personality and I think the only way he can go is up.

“He will keep on improving, he has a lot of his career ahead of him and I was very happy when he signed here because he can give a lot to this team. He can play with his feet, he can manage and control the defensive line and he is very agile and mobile on the line, so I think he has all the attributes to be a top goalkeeper.”

Sarri will soon decide who will become his Chelsea captain, as Gary Cahill is not currently an automatic starter for the Blues. Azpilicueta has captained Chelsea in each of Sarri’s games, with Cahill not even making the match day squads.

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Azpilicueta admits that captaining the side is something that he is proud of, especially after reaching 200 Premier League games with Chelsea. 

“I am really proud to wear the captain’s armband and to lead the team,” Azpilicueta added. “I always try to help my team-mates and the club, but I’m more happy about it when we win the games at the end.

“It’s true that to have the armband is something I am really proud of, but I always try to do my work as well as possible.”

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‘I want to win everything’ – Sarri aiming to win Europa League with Chelsea – football news

Maurizio Sarri has not yet chosen his new Chelsea captain but already knows that he wants that player to help guide the Blues to the Europa League trophy.

The former Napoli boss is taking his time choosing the right candidate to help lead the club to victory on the continent and turn them back into contenders domestically.

Gary Cahill became the club captain under Antonio Conte, but Sarri is considering other options with Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Eden Hazard in contention for the role.

Azpilicueta is currently the vice-captain, while Hazard is the club’s most valuable player as well as being captain of Belgium. Entering the international break, Sarri has set himself some targets, firstly to decide on who will wear the armband and then to challenge for the Europa League.

“Nothing decided at the moment, I want to decide during the international break for the final one,” Sarri told reporters. “I want to win everything, if I can. I want to win everything.

“For me, it’s a pleasure to play in Europe. It’s a pleasure to play in the Europa League. It’s one of our targets.”

Before the international break, Chelsea host Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, hoping not to slip up at home against familiar foes. The Cherries have shocked Chelsea twice at Stamford Bridge in the last two years, including getting a 3-0 win last season.

Sarri and Howe have a relationship from before the Italian’s time at Chelsea, as Howe was invited to watch Empoli train when Sarri was in charge. This connection began a good relationship between the two coaches. 

Napoli then travelled to Bournemouth for a friendly match last year, with the pair meeting up once more. Sarri spoke in detail about the relationship that he built with the Premier League’s longest-serving manager.

“Sometimes, not very often, but sometimes. Some messages,” Sarri said about his contact with Howe. “‘I asked him ‘why Empoli? He told me he was studying all the little clubs in Italy and France at the time, in that period, and he was impressed with Empoli.

“Yes, I was surprised. I knew that Bournemouth, in this period, were winning the Championship. I didn’t know him or the players, but I knew the situation. No, I was in a non-professional team [Tegoleto] in Italy’s Serie D. I’m not surprised that Eddie has got to where he has, because he’s very clever and very intelligent.

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Maurizio Sarri Eddie Howe

“So I’m not surprised. I think he is ready. He is 40, but he is ready. Probably, when I was 40, I wasn’t ready. They are a dangerous team. In the defensive phase, they are very organised. If they have the possibility to have space, they are very dangerous on the counter-attack.

“They attack the space very well in the right time, so they are very dangerous. If you don’t play very well, with a high level of attention, it’s easy to lose games against them.”

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